How My Hardened Homecoming Heart Turned Soft

Photo: Alex Eremeyeff

I’m a scrooge when it comes to a lot of things: Valentine’s Day, Halloween, basically any event Hallmark tells me I need to be celebrating.

I am not fun. It’s true. Ask anyone.

I’m also a scrooge when it comes to anything “over the top”. Like, when simple affairs are all of a sudden turned into major functions costing lots of money. 

You know. Like a high school Homecoming Dance.

Back in my day (*said like a grumpy old man), the Homecoming Dance was a fun little gathering of students the night after a football game. A time when a guy you had a crush on for years finally asked you to dance, and you were so excited you could hardly stand it, and then later find out he only danced with you because your friend told him to ask you.

But I digress. 

Where was I? 
Oh, yes.

I really became a Homecoming Dance scrooge when I was in youth ministry. One October, I planned a 9th grade retreat the same weekend as the Homecoming dance of one of the many high schools in our area. Apparently, this was cause for huge concern by parents. Mind you, these were freshmen. And it was Homecoming – not prom or a wedding for goodness sake – a simple dance! Boy, was I wrong. Something had changed in the 10 years since I graduated.

Now, 28 years have passed since the last time I danced at Homecoming. Let me tell you, things have gotten even more out of hand.

I first became aware of the hype when the girls and I visited our good friends this summer. Emma and her grade school BFF poured over websites looking for the perfect Homecoming dress. They created Pinterest boards with footwear wishes and hairstyle ideas.

But school hasn’t even started, I chided, how do you even know you’re going?

Oh, we’re going, they responded. Followed by questions including, but not limited to:
What’s my budget?
How long does it have to be?
Can I have strapless?
How about one shoulder covered?

My own child – a Homecoming traitor.

Less than one month after her high school career started, Emma would attend her first dance. And it had to be Homecoming.

I checked out my daughter’s Instagram account. Online friends snapped selfies as guys approached with “Homecoming proposals.” No lie. It’s not enough to get asked to the dance anymore. Now requests come complete with flowers, signs, and stuffed animals.

What is a kind, politically correct way of saying, “Shoot me now?”

You can imagine my confusion when Emma told me she didn’t want to be asked to the dance, she just wanted to go with friends. Specifically, her theater friends.

A significant amount of teens in the drama company of which my girls belong attend the same high school. Once the kids talked about going together, we parents stepped in to make sure the event would remain low cost, casual, and something I’m not good at – fun.

Dare I say, we succeeded. 

Fifteen youth came to our house Saturday evening for a baked potato bar dinner. One of the dads, a photographer, captured moments of the evening. One mom played hair stylist, and parents transported kids to the school dance. After the event ended, the kids walked back to another family’s house for a dessert and movie after party. (Only, because they are theater kids, they ended up singing around a piano. Because that’s what they do.)

You know what? The kids had fun. The parents had fun. And I will admit, I had fun. 

The Dudes
The Ladies
I guess our teens’ events are what we all make of them, huh? If we accept they will be high pressure, that wish may be fulfilled. But if enough of us surround our kids with the reality of what is really important, like being together and supporting one another, they may be strong enough not to buy into the hype of more, more more.

A mom can hope, right? 


  1. Michael Metschan says

    Great post Andee! It should give us parents some sense of pride that our kids are opting for a different approach to such things, and confidence that they will make good choices in the future. I am so thankful that Natalie has connected with such and awesome group of kids. What a blessing!

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